Friday, August 01, 2014
From here. Yesterday's re-posting was about Mike Huckabee's opinions so why not do the same today? This post continues on some of the topics of the previous one. But I also found it funny. Mostly I don't find my old posts that funny...
Thursday, July 31, 2014
This post is about how a conservative guy would run a political campaign against a woman. It's hard to do if she is to stand on a pedestal because then he will have to topple it.
When I read that post again I started thinking of similar difficulties inside the hierarchy of the Catholic church (they don't affect Islam that much because women are pretty much excluded, and in some other sects or religions women are already in the hierarchy, at least on the lowest rungs of the ladders). Pope Francis reacted to questions of women's role in his church with a man's-rib joke.
Both responses bring in stuff like chivalry (as do certain sites which hate feminism) or the specific value of the feminine but both are ultimately negative reactions to the idea that we should have a few more women in power.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
But a good one, I think. It uses an expanded concept of the term "infrastructure." That concept would include the access to potable water. Given what has been happening in Detroit recently, water is now available for some who have not paid their water bills (golf courses and sports arenas) but not available for others who are late on their water bills (poorer people):
The average monthly water bill in Detroit is $75 for a family of four — nearly twice the United States average — and the department is increasing rates this month by 8.7 percent. Over the past decade, sales have decreased by 20 to 30 percent, while the water department’s fixed costs and debt have remained high. Nonpayment of bills is also common. The increasing strain on the department’s resources is then passed on to customers.
But residents aren’t the only ones with delinquent accounts. Darryl Latimer, the department’s deputy director, told me that the State of Michigan holds its biggest bill: $5 million for water at state fairgrounds. (The state disputes the bill, arguing that it’s not responsible for the costs of infrastructure leaks.)
A local news investigation revealed that Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, owed $82,255 as of April. Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play, owed more than $55,000. City-owned golf courses owed more than $400,000. As of July 2, none had paid. Mr. Latimer said the Department of Water and Sewerage would post notice, giving these commercial customers 10 days to pay before cutting service. But he did not say when.
And in the meantime the city is going after any customers who are more than 60 days late and owe at least $150.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
You need to be careful when using the term "free markets." For those who would check the box "free-market fundamentalist" in a questionnaire about one's religion, the term means a deus ex machina: markets as an infinitely wise and objective ruler of our lives, a divine power, something which manages things better than anyone else. This religious view is extended to apply to all those things which non-market institutions usually manage, including the government (except for wars and legal enforcement of property rights).
That concept has nothing to do with economics, by the way. Markets do some things very well, others so-so and fail dismally in some areas. But markets are never the arbiters of fairness or justice, and those concepts, too, the market fundamentalists would leave to the marketplace.
The economic meaning of a term like "free markets" would perhaps be closest to an unregulated market. Whether not to regulate a market is good or bad depends on the characteristics of a market. Take health care, for an example: How comfortable would you feel if anyone at all could set up a business as a heart surgeon, without any formal training or qualifications? The extremists would support that idea, arguing that customers (patients) would do the necessary work to find out if a person is qualified or not. But most countries do not let an untrained person do heart surgery, and that's because of the high costs of poor care, the difficulty for customers to actually learn about someone's skills (given that one could lie about them in advertising in a completely unregulated market) and the great asymmetry of information in those types of markets.
I used that example because those who believe in market-solutions for health care argue by analogy: If the farmers' markets work, why not something similar for heart surgery?
A different economic term that some seem to confuse with "free markets" is the concept of perfectly competitive markets. The two are not the same, and perfectly competitive markets are pretty rare in reality.
Here is a fairy tale about free markets. It's relevant for understanding why food safety regulations matter. More on that topic here.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Now this post (fried girl and boy brains), from last December, was very hard to write, because it took me ages to research and because it taught me a lot of unpleasant stuff about science politics in general. These two posts (the "daring young man on the flying trapeze" and how to popularize gender science) address the popularization problems of studies of this type.